Consumer goods giant Unilever will put its plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions to a shareholder vote, it said on Monday, becoming the first blue-chip company to give investors a say on its climate strategy.
Shareholders will vote at the company’s annual general meeting on May 5th on measures including plans to cut emissions from its operations to net zero by 2030 and to halve the environmental impact of its products.
The move comes on the heels of the Say on Climate campaign launched by British billionaire Chris Hohn, that aims to force firms to give shareholders more of a voice.
“Unilever believes that the economy-wide shift to net-zero emissions will require a greater and deeper level of engagement between companies and their investors about their climate transition plans,” said the company, which is worth $120 billion (€98.9bn).
Larger rival Procter & Gamble faced a revolt in October over its climate change efforts when shareholders voted for a proposal to make the company more transparent about how it sourced palm oil and was reducing deforestation.
Unilever, which makes Dove soap, Hellmann's mayonnaise and Lipton tea, is also aiming to cut emissions from the sourcing of products through to the point of sale to net zero by 2039 – 11 years ahead of the Paris Agreement deadline.
"Unilever could be a trend-setter here, although it will only really make a difference in the long run if shareholders actively engage," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.
Unilever said it would share its climate-action plan ahead of its annual meeting. It will then seek advisory votes every three years on any material changes made or proposed, and will report on its progress each year from 2022.
The move also comes a month after UN climate envoy Mark Carney backed calls by investors to force companies to submit their climate change strategies to annual shareholder votes.